Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Great Peter's Railway Treasure Hunt 2013 - Win £500

Summer is here and this year we've been blessed with beautiful weather which makes getting out and about with the children easier and more enjoyable.

One enjoyable day out, is on a steam railway! Whether miniature, narrow gauge or full gauge, there are plenty to choose from around the UK, not to mention all the railway museum's as well, and a visit to a railway and trains are always a hit with children!

To make it even more fun, Peter's Railway is hosting a Treasure Hunt this year with the grand prize of £500! All you need to to do is download the quiz sheet for your chosen railway and answer the questions as you enjoy your visit to the railway. 


This free competition is for children up to the age of 14 years with a grand prize of £500, 2nd prize of £250 and another prize of £250 for an entrant who has visited the most railways or museums in the Treasure Hunt before the closing date of the 30th September 2013. The more places you visit during the summer, the more points you can win and the entrant with the highest score will win the top prize!

With over 50 railways and museums to choose from, there's bound to be one near you or near wherever you go on holiday! You can get the full list of railways and museums taking part here.

Rules:
  • The competition is organised and sponsored by Peter's Railway entry to the competition is free of charge and is open to persons aged 14 and under on the 30th September 2013 and who are a full time resident in the UK. 
  • An adult is required to approve the entry to the competition on behalf on the entrant. The adult may be the child's parent, guardian or teacher.
  • Only one Quiz sheet per child per site. Repeat visits to a site will not add to your score.
  • If several children wish to enter as a group, the person named on the entry sheet will be awarded the points (and the prize money).
  • Quiz sheets will be collated using the entrant's name and contact email address, so please make sure this is super-readable. 
  • Email addresses can be used for occasional Peter's Railway communication and may be given to the railway that you visited. They will not be sold or passed on to anyone else for any reason. 
  • Entries received after the 30th September will not be counted. Winners will be notified by email within 7 days. If there is no response to the winner's notification email after 10 days, the prize will be re-allocated to the next highest score. 
  • In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined by a draw. 
  • Peter's Railway is not liable for lost entries and reserves the right to disqualify any entry. The decision of Peter's Railway is final.
  • Send your completed Quiz Sheets, either by snail mail to Treasure Hunt, PO Box 9246, Bridge of Weir, PA11 3WD or scan and email to prize@petersrailway.com. To save on postage, you can keep all your completed Quiz Sheets and send them as a batch - just make sure you can get them to us before 30th September 2013 or they won't be counted!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Nowhere in my home is high enough

Last night I came upon this picture and posted it on my Facebook page

There is no surface in my home high enough that my ninja children cannot reach
There is no surface in my home high enough that my ninja children cannot reach

It struck me as very true and reminded me of when my now 8 year old was 4!

She was in the kitchen, whilst I was in the lounge, and for some reason she decided she wanted some Calpol! She wasn't ill and hadn't even asked for any, but she decided she needed some.

Now I know how important it is to keep all medicines out of the reach of children, and that's why all medicine was in the highest kitchen cupboard we had, at about my head height. Of course, I hadn't counted on my ninja daughter, who once she has something in her head HAS to do it!

So, this little 4 year old decided she was going to climb up to the cupboard and get herself some calpol!

She pushed the dinning chair from the table up to the worktop. Climbed onto the chair and then onto the worktop. She opened the cupboard and somehow, standing on tiptoes, managed to reach the shelf where the calpol is. The shelf that my shorty hubby at 5ft 5in cannot reach without a chair himself. Grabbing the calpol she climbed back down again and managed to take the child proof lid off and using a tablespoon swallowed some. This is when I came in after changing my newborn's nappy and found her!

I panicked as I didn't know how much she'd taken and we rushed her to hospital! It was the longest drive ever as our nearest A&E department is over 60 miles away and I spent the entire drive telling hubby to keep her awake. I was terrified that if she went to sleep she would never wake up again!

After a full check-up at hospital and blood work, they were happy to discharge her, confident that she hadn't overdosed on Calpol! Of course, we were made to feel like terrible parents that she'd managed to get ahold of the Calpol, as we had obviously left it in her reach with the lid either off or not on properly!

Of course, they had never met my daughter before and so they don't know how determined she can be when she puts her mind to something!

Really Rachel My daughter aged 4 with her newborn sister
Looking so sweet and innocent at 4, cuddling her newborn sister

What about you? Have you ever put something up high that you thought was safe only to find your child/ren with it?

Why not share your story below!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

#HolidayPostcards My Favourite Holiday Memories from the Llangollen Canal in Wales

Travelsupermarket are looking for stories of favourite holiday stories for their #HolidayPostcards competition and for me, it was easy to use what my holiday was, but the hardest part was choosing which particular holiday stood out the most. 

My favourite holidays are when we go on my parent's canal boat here in the UK. We've had lots of fun over the years, but as my family grows the more cramped the boat becomes and sadly I fear that when the baby makes an appearance, we won't be able to go again as there is just no room for all of us. Something which will upset the children and the rest of us. Hubby and I enjoy going as much as they do and my parents love having us with them!

The one holiday I would have to choose though, is the one from September/October 2006, when hubby and I, along with our then 3yr old son and 18mth daughter, joined my parents on their canal boat "Sunseeker". Despite my being 6 months pregnant with my 3rd child, we had a fabulous time as we travelled along the Llangollen and Montgomery Canals. 


Sunseeker canal boat on the Llangollen canal
My late, beautiful dog Megan sunbathing beside Sunseeker the boat

We had a lovely time and it was a great family holiday. I love how relaxed canal boat holidays are as you tootle along at 3-4mph, through beautiful scenery that you don't often see because it is so rural. 

The Llangollen canal, in my opinion, is one of the best canal systems in the UK and my favourite (and I've been on a few different ones). 

The Llangollen Canal starts just north of Nantwich where it leaves the Shropshire canal in rural Cheshire before entering Wales. It is 41 miles long and takes at least three days to cruise along the length of the canal to Llangollen, even more during busier times. 


Map of the Llangollen canal
Map of the Llangollen Canal

On the canal you can find, not just one but two impressive aqueducts. First you have the beautiful and impressive Chirk Aqueduct, which on any other canal would be a famous addition, but sadly as it's on the Llangollen canal, it is overshadowed by the more famous Aquaduct. Chirk Aqueduct has a railway viaduct running alongside alongside and a tunnel at one end, the Aqueduct was built in 1801 and the Viaduct in 1848.


Really Rachel Chirk Aqueduct Viaduct and tunnel
Chirk Aqueduct, Viaduct and tunnel at the end of the aqueduct
Next you reach the outstanding and impressive Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which was awarded a World Heritage Site Status in 2009. Pontcysyllte means "the bridge that connects" and consists of 18 piers, each 126ft high and 19 arches each with a 45ft span. The aqueduct is 1,007ft long and 126ft high with the River Dee running beneath it. The first stone was laid in July 1795 and it was completed in 1805, using only local stone. Each of the slender masonry piers are partly hallow and taper at the summit, this is to keep the aqueduct as light as possible because of the weight of all the water in the trough. The mortar was made of oxen blood, lime and water and the aqueduct holds 1.5 million litres of water in an iron trough that measures 11ft 10in wide and 5ft 3ins deep and takes two hours to drain. 


Really Rachel Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
In September 2006, we joined my parents as we chugged along the canal. Chirk Aqueduct and viaduct was impressive and I asked my dad if the railway was still working or whether it was part of the now disused Llangollen railway from Ruabon to Barmouth. He thought it was disused  and about 5 minutes later he was proved wrong when we watched a train pass, all of us waving madly and I was so excited to see a train I completely forgot to grab the camera! At the end of Chirk Aqueduct, heading towards Llangollen is an extra excitement as you hit Chirk tunnel!


Really Rachel Chirk Aqueduct Viaduct and Tunnel
Crossing the Chirk Aqueduct whilst looking out for trains
Before long you arrive at the world famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Hubby took one look at the Aqueduct, especially the fact that there is no railing on the canal side, and refused to travel by boat. Instead he walked whilst the rest of us travelled in style, single-file in a queue. I had a death grip on the children, apart from the moment when I took their picture!


Really Rachel brave children on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
My brave children weren't scared at all on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Really Rachel Crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
Slowly crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Really Rachel Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
Granddad steering the boat with Megan the dog

Really Rachel Scared daddy walking the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
Daddy was too scared to travel on the boat and walked instead

Really Rachel Looking down whilst crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
Look how high we were
Soon we arrived in the village of Llangollen, which by road is only about an hour and a half away from home. In fact, many years ago you used to be able to catch a train in Llangollen and travel to our home along the old Ruabon to Barmouth line, which sadly fell victim to Beechings Axe in 1968. Hubby told my son all about how his taid (taid is Welsh for grandfather, hubby's dad) and how he used to drive the train along this line! Llangollen railway is now on the site of the old railway line, a volunteer run steam railway which reopened in 1975 and has slowly been extended. Sadly we have yet to take the children on the Llangollen Railway, although I plan to soon. 


Really Rachel Daddy and his boy at Llangollen railway station
Daddy and his boy at Llangollen Railway station


Really Rachel Foxcote Manor at the Llangollen Railway
With Foxcote Manor at the Llangollen Railway
A train like taid used to drive

Really Rachel looking at the drivers plate at Llangollen Railway
This is where taid used to drive the train all the way home
The Marina in Llangollen was lovely and modern, having opened in 2004 in hopes to ease congestion on the busy Llangollen canal and we were lucky enough to find a birth which even gave us electricity and because we weren't running on battery power my dad wasn't as energy concious as he usually was! 

The marina is the end of the navigable part of the canal, although you can take a horse drawn trip (the traditional method of moving the boat) up to the famous Horseshoe Falls. Horseshoe falls is where the canal begins, a man-made weir, shaped like a horseshoe and a beautiful spot.


Horseshoe Falls at Llangollen
Horseshoe Falls at Llangollen
After we left Llangollen, we travelled back over the Pontcysyllte and Chirk Aqueducts and back towards Ellesmere and the junction onto the Montgomery canal. The Montgomery canal holds a special place in my dad's heart as he has helped with the restoration of this neglected canal, which is still largely closed to navigation after it's official abandonment in 1944. The canal is split into two parts, but slowly the gap between them is closing as the canal is slowly restored. From Ellesmere you can travel 7 miles through 6 locks and in the middle there is an isolated 17 mile stretch through Welshpool. The whole route is quiet and peaceful, which makes a lovely change after the busy and popular Llangollen Canal, because access to the canal is controlled by the lock keeper at Welsh Frankton who only allows a certain amount of boats on the length at any time. However, walkers already have access to the towpath all the way to the canals terminus at Newtown, whilst volunteer working parties, such as the ones my dad likes to go on, continue to work towards full restoration for boats, but for now Gronwen Wharf is the current terminus.  


Montgomery Canal showing navigable and non-navigable sections
Montgomery Canal (blue is the navigable sections)
Ironically, as we travelled along the Montgomery canal, we passed the pub where we had gone out for a meal with my parents for my dad's birthday 5yrs earlier. The reason it sticks in my head is because it was that night that hubby asked my dad's permission to marry me (after a few glasses of liquid courage and thankfully before we watched the movie Meet the Parents!). It also made it even more incredible, that the day we passed the pub, was actually our 2nd Wedding Anniversary! We did go out to celebrate that evening, but at a different put a little further down the canal named the Queen's Head near Oswestry, which was where we moored for the night! 


Really Rachel daddy and his babies on the Montgomery Canal
Daddy and his babies on the Montgomery Canal

Really Rachel happy boy on the Montgomery Canal
The boy enjoying his ride along the Montgomery Canal
Whilst we travelled down the Montgomery Canal, my son was thrilled to be allowed to help (under supervision and lots of help) to operate the locks, which he was thrilled about and made him feel so grown up! It also gave him lots to tell his playschool about when he got home! We also made sure to explain to him the dangers of locks, as years ago, lots of children who lived aboard canal boats as their parents travelled up and down the country delivering cargo, would drown at the locks as it is the most dangerous place on the canals.


Really Rachel Helpful boy opening the paddles to fill the lock
Helpful boy opening the paddles to fill the lock

Really Rachel Helpful boy opening the lock gates to let the boat in
Opening the heavy lock gates to let the boat in
One afternoon we had a small mishap when my daughter dropped her juice cup into the canal, and because it was full of juice it quickly dropped below the surface! Supervised by both children, daddy quickly grabbed the fishing net from the roof of the boat and caught the one and only thing he caught all holiday. Her juice cup!

Really Rachel Daddy fishing for something special
Daddy fishing but what is he fishing for?


Really Rachel Daddy catching a juice cup
YAY He found it! He caught daughter's juice cup!
All in all it was a wonderful holiday and one that will be remembered for many more years to come. We've been on several other holidays on Sunseeker and both the younger girls, as well as my older son and daughter, enjoy the holidays as much as we do! In fact my 3yr old is always asking to go "Back on boat. Do locks!" Her smile on this picture taken last October on the Oxford Canal shows how much she enjoyed herself!


Really Rachel Happy baby enjoying her canal boat holiday
Happy baby! Enjoying her holiday on the canal!
This post is my entry into the TravelSupermarket's #HolidayPostcards competition, detailing my most favourite holiday memories. The winning blog post will be lucky enough to win £1,000 towards their next holiday. If I were to win I would hire a bigger canal boat so that hubby and I, our five children including the new baby, and my parents, could have another holiday on the canal. I would hire Muddy Waters, a specially designed family canal boat from Oxfordshire Narrowboats for a two week holiday travelling on the Thames and seeing how far we could get before having to turn back and maybe even reaching London! 


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Save Money on Fuel with Tesco and Morrison Vouchers

Summer holidays are almost amongst us, which of course means holidays and days out and using the car. Which, thanks to the current cost of petrol and diesel can cost almost as much as admission tickets and accommodation  Especially if you're going quite far!

But thanks to an offer with Tesco, you can SAVE up to 30 pence per litre on your fuel!


To take advantage of this offer you have to do a little bit of extreme couponing, which works by buying certain promotional items. It is a little fiddly, but provided you'd buy these groceries anyway and you don't mind stocking up, it's a handy saving and helps make those days out a little cheaper.

All you have to do is buy certain items instore or online at Tesco (except Tesco Express) from Monday 15th July until Sunday 21st July and you get a voucher offering you 5p off per litre per item. You can get up to SIX vouchers per transaction and you can use ALL six vouchers per petrol or diesel purchase, meaning you can save 30p per litre, or £15 off 50 litres.

Sadly it isn't as big as Tesco's previous 50p per litre promotion, but provided you'd be buying or using the goods anyway it can still mean a decent saving. 

You can only use these vouchers at a Tesco petrol station and you have a 2 week window to use them. It's easy to use them at a manned petrol station, although some of the pay-at-pump petrol stations will allow you to redeem the vouchers at customer services provided you supply a valid receipt. 

The products you need to buy are;

  • Plenty Kitchen Towel White 8 Roll (Costs £6.43 cheaper at Tesco)
  • Tesco Luxury Soft White Loo Roll 18pk (Costs £6.95, 30p extra at Tesco compared to Sainsbury)
  • Carlesberg 20x440ml Cans (£15 at Tesco, £14 at Asda costs £1 more at Tesco)
  • Flora Buttery Spreak 1kg (£3.80 at Tesco, £2 at Morrison. Costs £1.80 more at Tesco)
  • 2 x Robinsons Double Concentrate Squash 1.75ltr (Costs £6 at Tesco, £1.82 each at Waitrose = £3.64. Costs £2.36 more at Tesco)
  • Cathedral City Twin Pack Cheese 2x350g (Costs £7.49, £5 at Asda. Costs £2.49 more at Tesco)
*** Comparison prices from Morrisons press office and MySupermarket on Tue 16th July. Prices can fluctuate so always check before buying ***

The bigger your car and how much fuel you put in it, the bigger the savings. For a typical 50-litre tank, each 5p off voucher saves £2.50 on a fill-up. So provided Tesco doesn't charge you £2.50 more for the goods than you could get them elsewhere, it's a winner. 

Of course, if you have a smaller car or are doing a smaller fill-up, then the impact of the vouchers is less. So ask yourself if it's worth it for your circumstances. 

However, another bonus with Tesco is their current Price Promise. This means that Tesco will give you a voucher for the difference if your comparable shopping is cheaper at Asda, Sainsbury's or Morrisons. You should receive the voucher at the checkouts along with your receipt and fuel vouchers. 

There are no guarantees though and you need at least 10 different items in your basket. 


Another way of saving money is another extreme couponing option, this time from Morrisons. Again it's slightly fiddly and only works if you're already planning to make a big purchase at certain high street stores, such as Homebase or Currys. But, played correctly, you could potentially get a FREE tank of fuel. 

Morrisons' Fuel saver deal gives 1p per litre of petrol, diesel or LPG for every £10 of gift cards bought instore.

There are 37 retailers to buy gift cards from, including Homebase, Debenhams, Currys, Pizza Express, Next, House of Fraser, Halfords and iTunes, plus new retailers TK Maxx, Oasis, Warehouse and Waterstones. The offer's ongoing but doesn't include Morrisons' own gift cards. 

The discount is stackable, so you can buy £50 of gift cards and get 5p off per litre. So if there's a large purchase you're going to make anyway i.e £500 on a computer at PC World or a garden shed at Homebase - get it by first buying the gift cards and you'll bag 50p off per litre. 

If you bought £1,400 of gift cards, it'd effectively make a £1.40 per litre tank FREE. Morrisons have said that there's no limit per transaction on the gift card, but the maximum coupon value you could get for one transaction is £1 off per litre. This means that if you spent more than £1,000 on gift cards you would only receive £1 off per litre. 

Petrol vouchers are valid for 63 days from the issue date. 

Another problem to watch out for is that gift cards are non-refundable and it isn't a good idea to put money on the card to drip-spend over six months. Though most of the companies mentioned are big, safe companies, if the firm goes bust you'll probably lose the cash, so make sure you spend them quickly.

It's also worth being aware that third party retailers (Morrisons in this case) don't have any responsibility to refund you if a gift card's retailer goes into administration, which could cause problems if that should happen. See the Moneysavingexpert news story Beware Gift Vouchers for more information. Gift cards are usually valid for two years, but always check.

For more information on how to save money on fuel bills, check out the Cheap Petrol and Diesel Guide from Moneysavingexpert.com

***DISCLAIMER***
Whilst I haven't been paid for this article, I cannot take credit for it as the information above has been taken from MoneySavingExpert.com. A wonderful website full of tips and tricks to save you money. I fully recommend this website and suggest signing up to their weekly email for more tips, tricks and short-lived deals!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Save money on Theme Park Tickets inc Alton Towers, Chessington, Thorpe Park

Summer holidays are almost amongst us, which means trying to find ways to entertain the children, which don't break the bank!


Theme parks are always popular, but buying tickets on the day, for a family of four, could cost you almost £50!

Yet there are ways you can save money on ticket prices!

50% Off Theme Parks with £1 Chocolate
Until the end of July, buy promotional packs of Kit-Kats from major supermarkets and get a voucher for 50% off up to four people at most Merlin theme parks and attractions until 31st March 2014.


This voucher's better than a 2for1 if you're visiting a park with a party of three or any other odd number - this way, you all get a discount!
See the full list of theme parks in this offer

2for1 (adults go "free") to 43 Attractions via £2ish Cereal
Find an "Adult goes free" voucher on promotional packs of Kellogg's cereals by Wed 31st July, valid at 29 Merlin attractions and 14 independent attractions

2for1 with a valid on-the-day National Rail Ticket
Buy a National Rail ticket, register with Days Out Guide and print vouchers. You need to print a voucher AND have a valid rail ticket with the closest station to the theme park as the final destination, bought from National Rail on the same day.

It's worth doing this even if you're not travelling by train - a cheap single ticket is available for a few pounds, far cheaper than the entry price.

Up to 75% off theme parks with Tesco Clubcard
If you shop at Tesco and collect the points using your Clubcard, then there's a way to get up to three or four times the value on your points by converting vouchers to Clubcard Rewards.

We've actually done this before and took my son to Drayton Manor for his 6th birthday and it only cost us (4yrs ago) £12 in Clubcard Vouchers for all 4 of us!

See the Tesco Clubcard page for the full details on how to convert points to rewards and whilst there it's worth checking to see if you have any unused clubcard vouchers you didn't realise you had!

£20 Off entry via the Nectar double exchange
Usually, 1,000 Nectar points gets you £5 off shopping at Sainsbury's, Argos, Homebase and a few other stores. But from Wed 24th July - Tue 13th Aug, you'll get 4x value at participating theme parks. So 1,000 points becomes £20 to spend at these theme parks!

You just need to go to the customer service desk at Sainsbury's and ask to redeem your points for a Merlin voucher. See the Nectar Deals page for the full info.

See the Cheap Theme Parks page on Moneysavingexpert.com for a list of all the attractions and deals. 

***DISCLAIMER***
Whilst I haven't been paid for this article, I cannot take full credit for it as the information above has been taken from Moneysavingexpert.com. A wonderful website I fully recommend and I also suggest signing up to their weekly email for more tips, tricks and short-lived deals!

Checkout Etiquete

The other week there was an article in a national paper about a checkout assistant in Sainsbury's who refused to serve a customer until she hung up her mobile phone! The customer then complained to the store which apologised and issued her with a gift voucher as a gesture of goodwill and apology. 

Jo Clarke (above), 26, was in the queue at her local Sainsbury's, in Crayford, south-east London,
when the checkout assistant refused to help her because she was on her phone

Photo credit - www.dailymail.co.uk


However, opinions seem to be split, but most people seem to be agreeing with the checkout assistant that it is rude to be chatting to someone on the phone whilst at the till. What do you think about it?


For me it is something I have to deal with each week as I actually work on a checkout at one of the main supermarkets, in fact last week marked the 6th anniversary of my starting. Being there for almost 6yrs I always find it funny when someone asks me if I'm a new starter as they haven't seen me before, but in their defence I have only worked one day a week for the past 18mths and before that I worked 2 days a week after my maternity leave with my 3yr old due to childcare issues having four children. Before I fell pregnant with her I worked 4 days a week but on the diary department stocking shelves and I only started working on the checkouts halfway through the pregnancy when I almost passed out stacking the milk and I've remained there since.


I must admit I do enjoy working on the checkouts. You see a wonderful array of people, some who are nice and enjoy chatting to you and some who are not so nice, although it could just be a bad day for them and some who are just plain rude!


However, I must admit that a pet hate of mine is people on their mobile! As checkout staff we're encouraged to be friendly and to try and make it a friendly and enjoyable visit to our store, well as much as you can make food shopping a pleasant experience! 


I'm sorry but there is just no need to be on the phone, if you must answer the phone then quickly say "I'm just at the checkout, I'll phone you back in a minute!" and then hang up. It's rude to stay on the phone and you make it harder for us to do our jobs, we have to talk to you to ask whether you want bags, or to tell you how much your shopping costs. If we were sat there on our mobiles (which incidentally we're not allowed on us) or chatting to colleagues then you'd find it rude and it would make you less likely to visit our store again. 


I remember a few years ago I was in a training meeting with my manager and we were discussing customer service and how important a friendly and helpful member of staff is. I can still remember my manager asking me which was more important, customer service or price, and I replied price. I was actually surprised to hear that a poll had shown customer service was rated more important. A few weeks later I was in a different supermarket and the checkout assistant was rude and miserable. Again it could have been something as simple as she was having a bad day, but it made it an unenjoyable experience and I found myself not wanting to visit that supermarket again, especially that lady! That was the point when I realised just how right my manager was when she told me it was very important to be polite and friendly at all times. We are the face of the company and the image that the public sees and because of that I try and overcome my natural shyness and treat the customers the way I would want to be treated!


Another pet hate of mine is people's attitude when you explain there is a 5p charge per carrier bag in Wales and people act like it's your fault! Since October 2011 it has been law in Wales that every shop charges 5p per carrier bag (although there are a few exceptions such as prescription bags). If we don't charge for the bags then we get into trouble for breaking the law. One good point to make is that the 5p does go to charity, not to the supermarket/shop or even to the Welsh Assembly Government and each shop has it's own charity. I'm sorry, but no matter how much you ask, cajole, plead or insult I cannot give you the bag for free as I would be breaking the law.

In fact, following the Sainsbury incident, the Independent newspaper decided to conduct some research by watching people at the checkout for an hour over a hot Friday afternoon to see how much customers engaged with checkout staff. 

They spent an hour observing at a Sainsbury's in Chiswick, London, watching five tills and 110 customers. Their results were interesting.

  • One woman in her 40s stayed on the phone whilst being served. She only acknowledged the cashier with a "Hi there" when she was greeted.
  • Five customers arrived at the checkout wearing headphones, of which only one removed them completely. Two removed one earphone whilst being served and the remaining two left them both in the whole time. 
  • Only about 20% of those monitored seemed to make eye contact, which includes the cashier as well as the customer.
  • Only about 1 in 10 appeared to engage in any kind of conversation beyond the initial greeting, although almost all said hello.
They then went on to print some Check-Iquette

DO:
  • Say hello
  • Make eye contact
  • Put a divider behind your shopping instead of assuming the next person will do it (sometimes they don't making it harder to tell shopping apart)
  • Have your wallet (and vouchers/loyalty card if you have them) ready instead of acting surprised when they want payment.
  • I would also add, that if you're under 30 and buying alcohol, make sure you have your ID ready, just in case you get asked for it. Most supermarkets now have a Think 25 policy for alcohol, which means we have to judge whether you look over 25 and if you look under then we have to ask for ID. This is because it's easier to judge if someone is over 25 than if they're over 18. If you're lucky enough to look under 25 (in our opinion) then you will be asked for ID. Please don't moan that you're older than 18, 25, 30 etc please take it as a compliment and show us your ID. We have to ask and if we get caught selling alcohol to an under 18yr old, then we risk a criminal conviction, a £5,000 fine and losing our job and the supermarket also risks losing it's licence to sell alcohol and a £50,000 fine.
Don't:
  • Read their badge and call them by their first name (they say this is creepy, but personally it doesn't bother me).
  • Text, speak or having anything to do with your phone (unless you have your loyalty card app on there).
  • Leave you headphones on, but if you must then only leave one in.
  • Rush off and get something you forgot at the last minute.
  • Have a hissy fit when you can't open the bags (although I always open mine for the customers).
  • Again I would add, moan that you have to pay 5p for a bag. It's no good telling me you don't pay in your local supermarket because if it's in England, then yes you won't have to pay, but you're in Wales now and you have to pay. It's no good telling me that you weren't charged last time you shopped in this supermarket. You were it's just that the cashier didn't mention the bag charge and if you look at your receipt you'll find you were actually charged. I always like to mention the charge so that people can change their mind about having a bag if they want to and it give me a chance to explain that the money goes to charity and to think of it as a charity donation!
  • I would also add, moan about being asked for ID. Again it is law that we don't serve under 18s and it is hard to guess someone's age. In the past I've ID'd someone I was convinced was only 16, to find out via their ID that they were in fact 25! At the end of the day, the cashier can't afford a £5,000 fine, to lose their job and to receive a criminal conviction!
What about you? Do you agree the cashier was right to confront the woman about using her mobile? Or do you think the customer was right to complain? 

Do you agree with the points above? Is there any you would remove or anything you would add. 

What about cashiers? What would you like to see them doing more to make your shopping experience more enjoyable? What do they do which you find annoying and would like them to change?

Monday, 15 July 2013

Meet Brave and Beautiful Emma!

When I was pregnant with my 6yr old, I joined a group on Yahoo for other expectant mum's who were due in November that year (although my daughter didn't make an appearance until the beginning of Dec!). It was a lovely, friendly and supportive group and I made some lovely online friends as we shared the ups and downs of pregnancy and parenting, once our little bundles of joy had arrived. Most of the members were from America, apart from me in Wales and Synchronization Of Us who lives in Scotland.

When facebook appeared, the yahoo groups slowly began to disappear as people began using facebook more and more, but a lot of us stayed in touch and are still friends on facebook, watching our 6yr olds growing up. 

One of the members Our Little Taste of Heaven, has a 10 year old daughter called Emma. Emma was born with a serious medical condition called Fanconi Anemia (FA) which causes bone marrow failure and different types of cancers, often including leukemia. Currently there is no cure!

Photo courtesy of Our Little Taste of Heaven.
Emma is in the middle with her parents and siblings

There are treatments which can (if successful) extend her life, such as a bone marrow transplant. But Emma is in severe bone marrow failure and sadly, despite having four younger siblings, none of them are a match for Emma (although ironically, in pairs they match each other)

In April this year, Emma sadly entered into more severe bone marrow failure and her immune system seems to barely function when she gets ill and her parents realised that time was running out for Emma and she needed a transplant.

In church one day she gave her own testimony and this is what she said.

My mom told me that people at Church are going to be fasting and praying for me and I was surprised because I didn’t know that. 

When my mom told me about FA, and that I will die without a transplant, and I knew that I might die from my bone marrow transplant, I cried a little bit but not very much because I’m not afraid to die. If I die I know I will get to be with Jesus and I know I will get to be with my family again.

I know my family would be sad if I died, and my mom would cry a lot, but I don’t want them to be sad because I would be happy if I was with Jesus.

Since my hair will all fall out when I have my transplant, I wanted it to be the colors of the rainbow, so I got to have it different colors. I’ve been excited about my transplant because I can get better and when I do I can take dance lessons, play with my friends and go on a water slide.

If you ever feel scared you can pray and Jesus will help you feel better. I have prayed when I’ve been scared and He has helped me feel better. I am a Mormon and I believe in Jesus. He is very important to me. He is the Son of God. He is our brother. He died, but He lives in heaven.

If we do good things and help other people we can go to heaven and live with Him. We don’t remember what heaven is like, but I know about heaven because my mommy has told me about it.

In the name of Jesus Christ, The End

Photo courtesy of Our Little Taste of Heaven
Emma's beautiful rainbow hair
Thankfully a donor was found and five weeks ago; Emma, her mum, her youngest sister, and her aunt made an almost 1000 mile trip from their home to Cincinnati for Emma's bone marrow transplant. 


Now the day of the operation draws closer, and Emma has been separated from her little sister as she's placed in isolation to begin chemotherapy and her transplant will hopefully take place in a weeks time. Because of the chemo, Emma will lose her beautiful long rainbow coloured hair. 

Photo courtesy of Our Little Taste of Heaven
Emma enjoying her final time with her little sister
before going into isolation where she's not allowed to visit
Last week Emma had surgery to put a central line into her chest and whilst they they took one of Emma's ovaries. Chemotherapy will leave Emma sterile, not to mention that FA also causes early menopause and sometimes problems with their ovaries and womb, thankfully Emma's are fine and healthy and one of her ovaries will be frozen so that hopefully in the future Emma will be able to have a child of her own!

Emma is such a brave and beautiful girl and it's heartbreaking for me to see what her family is going through, let alone how hard it must be for the family. Separated by over 1000 miles as they face their biggest challenge and they don't even know if Emma will survive!

I pray she does! Each day I add beautiful Emma to my prayers and pray that this operation is a success and she becomes the happy and beautiful, healthy child that God created and that her family find the strength and the peace of God as they pass through these dark days that face them. 

Last night, as Emma was checked into her room for her bone marrow transplant, her mum summed up on facebook what the last few weeks had been like for her and when the future could bring.

It's been over five weeks since we packed up our bags, packed up the van, gave hugs and kisses, and left our Texas home to bring Emma to Cincinnati for her bone marrow transplant. 

Even the sky was crying that day. 

Those last moments to
gether with my remaining three children and husband were some of the hardest moments we've gone through. To know I had to give those last hugs and last kisses on those tiny cheeks and *actually let go*. I didn't know how to let go. I kept feeling like I needed to give them just one more kiss. One more kiss. One more kiss. One more hug. I wanted to leave as many with them as I could. I needed to give them six month's worth of hugs and kisses because I didn't know when, or if, I'd see them again while we were away. My arms were already missing them, and I hadn't even let go yet.

I knew the moment I let go was the moment that we would start our new adventure, and I knew that our new adventure didn't include us being together. I wasn't ready for that. I wasn't ready to start an adventure where I wasn't there for all the little things and all the big things. I wouldn't be there for *any* of the things. I knew that when they cried, I wouldn't be able to hold them. I knew when they got hurt, I wouldn't be able to comfort them. I wouldn't be able to touch, feel, smell them. I wouldn't be there, and nothing could ever give that time back to me.

I watched the last hugs and kisses from father to daughter, the not wanting to let go, the long holding, the tears. The hurt in his eyes that he *had* to let go. He had to let her leave. That he had to be separated from her. The way he held the baby, the way he looked at her, hoping she'd remember him. The way he looked at me, held me close, neither of us wanting to let go, knowing we would have to go through the hardest, scariest part of our marriage - apart.

I watched the last hugs from sister to siblings and cousins. I watched them cry, some understanding better than others and not wanting to let go. They didn't want to say goodbye, but they knew why they had to. I saw them be brave in a way that doesn't seem fair. I saw them embrace, then finally pull apart, then walk away.

I watched my sister give her daughter her final hugs and kisses, as she lent her to me, to help me at transplant with the baby, while my sister remained to help with our remaining children. I watched my other sister, who chose to temporarily leave her home and husband to help us, standing there with her five children, also extending her wing over my remaining three children. Then simultaneously, over five hours away, another sister was preparing to leave her home, to meet me in Cincinnati to help us through the transplant process, missing out on precious time with her husband who will likely be deployed before she makes it home.

We don't have words to express our appreciation to each of them and their families. It has stirred emotions and feelings in us that we have never felt before. To see others sacrifice so much for our family is incredibly humbling (and more people in many more ways than this!).

We knew that Emma might not come back home, that it might be the last time we would see her there, the last time to see her walk out of her room, the last time to walk down the hall, the last time to hear her laugh there, the last time for her to be there, the last time our family would be like we were right then.

We did say our final goodbyes, we did leave, and we've been in Cincinnati for five weeks now. It's surreal that we're here - that tomorrow, Emma will start the fight for her life. Literally. Her immune system will be completely wiped out, and she'll be given new cells soon. A chance to live.

While we don't know the ending of this chapter of our lives, we know the ending of our story. We know that through Christ, and what He's done for all of us, there is absolutely a "happily ever after" to our story...and that's what we ultimately hold to and what brings us peace, as we prepare for all of what these next few months bring.
If you want to follow Emma's progress as she fights for her life, then you can follow Our Little Taste of Heaven on Facebook (for more up-to-date information) or their blog

Photo courtesy of Our Little Taste of Heaven
Emma being checked into her transplant room

If Emma's story has touched you and you want to help then please, I implore you, sign up to the register to become a bone marrow donor and help children like Emma! It's easy to do and you can sign up when you next donate blood. Sadly I can't as I've had a blood transfusion in the past and in the UK receiving a blood transfusion means you're ineligible to donate blood. For more information check out the British Bone Marrow Registry

Friday, 12 July 2013

#FridayBabyShower - What no one tells you might happen in labour

When you read a pregnancy book whilst expecting or chat to your friends, there seems to be a taboo, something that no one ever mentions.

Sometimes, when you're in labour, you poo!

There I said it, and I can admit that it happened to me.

A few weeks ago I did a post about things I wish I'd known, and although I was very tempted to write that sometimes you poo in labour and that I knew it for a fact as I had, I chickened out of writing it and wrote how I would've used washable nappies instead of disposable. 

But now, I will proudly stand up and admit... I pooped whilst giving birth!

It happened when I was in labour with my eldest daughter. I was 41wks pregnant and I was trying to push her out. I'd had an epidural so I didn't really have much sensation down there and it took me a while to realise what was happening. I remember asking the midwife if I was pooping and feeling so embarrassed when she confirmed I was. I don't think I did with my others, but I still remember that I did with her. She was also my biggest baby at 10lb 14oz and after trying unsuccessfully to push her out, I had to have an emergency section as she was wedged in my pelvis. 


However the midwife took in her stride and said she was used to it. A surprising amount of women do actually poo when they're in labour! Which when you think about it, it isn't that surprising and it was such a relief to me to realise I wasn't alone!

When you think about it, when you're told to PUSH, they're actually telling you to pretend you're having a poo and trying to push it out. Not to mention that as the baby travels down the birth canal, it squashes your back passage and any poo that is there will be pushed out as well. 

You can see in this picture how the bowel and back passage is squashed

Our bodies are amazing though, and for the most part we will empty our bowels either just before or during early labour, to make it easier to give birth.

But sometimes it happens and the best thing to remember is IT IS COMPLETELY NATURAL!!! 

Please don't worry about it, no one will make a fuss and if you do poo, your midwife will know that it means you're pushing correctly and will just clean it up without a fuss. The worst thing you can do is push wrongly because you're scared in case you poo. It means you end up pushing for a lot longer than they needed to, just because they weren't pushing correctly.


Thursday, 11 July 2013

999 Ambiwlans Awyr Cymru - 999 Wales Air Ambulance. Our Story

Back in 2004 I suffered a miscarriage and because we live in such a rural area with our nearest hospital over 60 miles away, I was airlifted by the Wales Air Ambulance and I strongly believe that the Air Ambulance saved my life, not just my life but all of my daughters as well as they wouldn't be here now and my son would have lost his mum aged just one year old!

The Wales Air Ambulance receives no funding from the government or from the Lottery and is run entirely on donations. 


So when I saw a post on the Wales Air Ambulance facebook group asking for people who could speak Welsh as well as English to appear in the new series of 999 Ambiwlans Awyr Cymru and the English version Helimeds, I immediately contacted them to share my story and to help raise awareness of the wonderful and vital work they do.

Our story was chosen and back in March this year, a film crew arrived to film our story. They even managed to grab hubby when he came home for his lunch!!!


For the moment you can see our story here on the S4C catch up service and hopefully I'll find a way to post it on here permanently once it's removed (it might appear on youtube making it easier for me to share.

Our story is about 18mins in and if you click on the S you can select the English Subtitles. The new series of Helimeds starts this Friday on ITV and I will share that once it airs. 




#R2BC Meningitis Scare

Last Thursday my 10yr old son was sent home from school as he complained he didn't feel very well. Now I don't know about you, but I'm a mean mum! If my children claim they feel unwell in the morning, and I'm not sure whether they're faking it or not, I send them to school telling them to tell their teacher if they don't feel any better. 9 times out of 10 they forget all about feeling ill once they see their friends! Of course my mean mummyness continues if they are off sick or they get sent home. No computer and they stay in bed! If they're too ill for school then they're too ill to be allowed out of bed and going out to play after school is a definate No-No!

Thursday morning, before school, he was quiet and tired and I put it down to him staying up late the night before playing on his tablet so I told him to go to school and that he wouldn't be allowed his tablet that night as it was obviously interrupting his sleep! However, when I dropped them off at school, I had a quick chat with his teacher and mentioned that he wasn't himself that morning. 

After picking my 3yr old up from playschool, I had just arrived at my mum's to do some secretarial work for her (she owns residential flats, in fact we're one of her tenants, and I often help her with her secretarial work) and as I was parking my car, she came out to say the school had rung and could I pick the boy up because he'd been sick. 

So off I went back to school to pick him up and when I got there he had brightened up a little bit, but he still wasn't his usual self so I brought him back to nanny's with me. 

Thursday evening and Friday morning he still wasn't his usual self, so I decided to let him stay home from school but that he was to stay in his bedroom and he did have some calpol. As the day went on, he would go from being happy and saying he felt better, to feeling sleepy and unhappy. It was obvious something wasn't right with him, but what?

Just before I went to pick the girls up from school he complained his head hurt and it hurt to move his neck. After quickly checking him for a rash, which I always do when they feel unwell, I gave him some more calpol and went to get the girls from school. 

A few hours later I heard him crying in his bedroom and when I went to check on him he was lying on his bed sobbing saying his head felt like it was going to explode and he couldn't lift his head off the pillow. I must admit I was concerned and you have all sorts of fears running through your mind as to what it could be! I checked him over to see if he had a rash and I asked him if he could put his chin on his chest, signs that I knew were of meningitis and he could them but it was obviously painful for him to do. 

By now the drs had closed and although we have a small cottage hospital with a minor injuries unit nearby, I knew friends had been sent away before for not phoning in advance so I tried ringing the out of hours. However after trying for several minutes I couldn't get an answer so I rang NHS Direct for advice. 

The lady I spoke to at NHS Direct was very helpful and asked me lots of questions and even spoke to my son. After she has spoken to a nurse and she learnt our nearest main hospital was over 60 miles away, she arranged for an ambulance to come and take us to hospital. I did offer to drive him myself, but she made a comment that if it was meningitis, like they suspected, an ambulance would be able to give him something to help straight away. I knew how serious meningitis is because one of his classmates died of meningitis a few years ago, just a week before his 5th birthday!

When the girls heard that the boy had to go to hospital by ambulance they became very upset, sobbing and clinging to their brother, saying they were worried about him and didn't want him to go. When the ambulance arrived , and when the ambulance turned up they were even worse! I walked the boy down to the ambulance and we got into the back. One of the paramedics was a local boy that I've known most of my life, in fact we used to be in the same class at primary school, so this helped put me at ease, seeing a familiar face. 



The paramedics didn't think it was meningitis as he looked too well! He also said that although my son was sensitive to the light, it wasn't severe enough to be photosensitivity, which is a major sign of meningitis. They phoned the out of hours doctor and spoke to her and after hearing their opinions of the boy the doctor arranged to come to my house for a house call that night.

We said goodbye to the paramedics and the boy went back upstairs to lots of relieved hugs from his sisters. They of course wanted to wait up for the doctor, but everyone except me fell asleep!

It was about 9pm when we left the ambulance and we were told the doctor had to make another housecall at a town around 30-40 miles away and would be over to visit around 11.30pm. She finally made it at midnight.

The doctor was a lovely German lady and after waking the boy up she had a look at him. She diagnosed him with something called Occipital Neuralgia. The Occipital nerves are the nerves which run from the top of the spinal cord at the base of the neck and up through the scalp and when they are inflamed or injured they can cause;
  • Aching, burning and throbbing pain which typically starts at the bast of the head and radiates to the scalp
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tender scalp
  • Pain when moving the neck
The doctor prescribed a kind of massage/acupuncture which she showed me how to do on the inflamed nerves and mentioned getting him a physio appointment as they could try some ultrasound therapy to help as well. 

The doctor herself was very friendly and full of sympathy for the boy, especially as she herself has suffered from Occipital Neuralgia in the past. I thanked her for making the trip out to see him at home and she said she was happy to as she knew he would be more comfortable and relaxed which makes it easier to examine him. 



As she was leaving I made a comment about how that night had made me so grateful for the NHS and knowing that I could phone for advice and an appointment without worrying about the cost. I had watched a program a few weeks earlier about a man named Wesley Warren Jnr in America who had an enlarged testicle and because he couldn't work because of the size of it he was on benefits. This meant that his medical insurance could only cover an operation in his state of Nevada, but no one there had the experience or willingness to do it. Finally he did find a doctor who would operate, but they wanted $1,000,000 to do it. He was heartbroken because he needed the operation but no way could he afford that and he was over the moon when the doctor agreed to do it for free. 

The doctor agreed with me about how wonderful the NHS is, but then of course we got on to the main difficulties/problems that are causing the NHS to fail. Things like too many managers on too much money meaning the money couldn't filter down to hire essential nurses etc. We also spoke about tourists and how they come over to this country and are entitled to free health care, despite not living in this country. How some will deliberately come over because a plane ticket to the UK was cheaper than healthcare in their own country and as soon as they arrive they head to the nearest hospital knowing they will be treated. This is really annoying as we need travel insurance when we go abroad and it should be the same for tourists coming here, which the doctor agreed with, especially as she needs to make sure she has travel insurance when she returns to her home country of Germany. 

On Monday I had him back to the doctor's as I wondered if he has hayfever as well. His nose had been streaming all weekend and it made me realise that he has a runny nose every summer. The doctor gave him some anti-histamine to try and see if it helped. That night he fell asleep at 6pm and didn't wake up till 7am the following morning and despite not having any tea the night before, he didn't want any breakfast either. For my son to refuse food means he isn't well at all so I kept him off school again. 

Wednesday morning he finally seemed himself again and I sent him back to school. The anti-histamine seems to be working and although he doesn't like the bright sunshine, his nose isn't streaming anymore and he hasn't complained of any headaches. I also had a chat with his teacher and told her everything that had been going on so she could keep an eye on him. 

On Monday he had a lovely surprise as he received some new Doctor Who toys to review from Character Options which cheered him up!


So these are my reasons to be cheerful this week. I'm so grateful that my son didn't have meningitis, but if he had, thanks to the NHS, the paramedics, Dr and NHS direct he would have been seen quickly and this would hopefully lessened the complications of that deadly disease. 

What about you? Do you have anything that is making you feel blessed or thankful? Why not join up with the #R2BC Reasons to be Cheerful linky this week. It's a wonderful opportunity to find the positives in your life as too often we're full of the negatives! If you want to learn more about #R2BC, why not have a look about why Mich from Mummy From The Heart started it and what she believes about it. 

If you want to join in, then go for it and jump right in. Just make sure you remember to link up with the linky below. The fab thing about this linky is that there are no rules and you can link up whatever you like. Just remember to visit all the other blogs which are linked up as well and share the comment love as everyone love to see comments on their blogs and to know that it's being read and enjoyed

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart